“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Google “public speaking” and you’ll find more than 545 million hits. When you consider that fear of public speaking is considered more than fear of death, the results aren’t as surprising. As an aspiring author and public speaker, I consider presentation skills as an indispensable competency to fulfill my vision as a thought-leader and pioneer in equipping, empowering, and transforming the next generation Christ-centered leaders and organizations. Though I’m not an innately gifted speaker, I’m always looking ways to improve my speaking. Here are seven tips from public speaking guru Darren Fleming which I hope will improve your presentation skills. Enjoy!
1. What do I do with my hands? – World-class speakers know that if they focus on content then controlling your hands with come naturally. When you worry about the positioning of your hands, you are focusing on the symptoms of your discomfort rather than addressing the true cause of this anxiety. Throughout your everyday life, your body moves naturally to complement your words. If you start to feel very conscious of your hands and what you are doing with them, take stock and start looking elsewhere for the source of your discomfort. Ask important questions such as “Do you have the right information?” “Are you delivering the right message for this audience?” When you have prepared and mastered the subject you’re speaking, the problem with the movements of your hands will disappear.
2. Impromptu Speaking – World-class speakers use what they know to make impromptu speaking look easy. First, don’t panic. Most people will panic when they are given an unprepared speech because they feel under pressure to deliver an excellent speech. The truth is the audience does not expect a great oratory performance, but rather they want an authentic speech that comes from the heart. Second, choose stories you are familiar with. Stories you’ve already shared a few times with your friends or family. You’ll probably get a good reaction when you shared something you already know very well. Third, use a basic structure to your speech.
- Chronological (past, present, future)
- Comparative (pros and cons
- Six W’s (who, what, why, where, when, how)
3. Opening – World-class speakers grab the audience’s attention from the start of their presentation. Put the opening aside until you finish the main body of your presentation. The introduction will almost write itself. At the outset of your presentation, the audience wants to know what’s in it for them. Answer the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) Think about using stories, statistics, or questions to open the presentation. Never begin a presentation by saying, “Hi, thank you very much. It’s great to be here today. I’m going to be speaking at your organization today and I’m truly blessed by the fact that all you people have turned up to hear me.” This is a very dull and boring and focused on yourself than the audience. Begin your presentation instead like when you see the opening of a TV show CSI. Rather than opening with credits, they show a group of people watching a scene of dead body. This immediately captures the attention of the audience.
4. I’m Not Good Enough – World-class speakers are not perfect. When you are speaking, people are not expecting Barack Obama, Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins. Instead they are expecting you. As long as you do your preparation and engage the audience with your best ability, the audience will pardon several mistakes. Most audience wants to watch good performance. They do not watch with an intention to see what you are not doing and fail. Most of your audience would be glad that they’re not on the stage to deliver the speech. Think about models who tumble on their catwalk they get back on the feet and keep walking. Be yourself and relax. Your audience is more forgiving than you think.
5. The Adrenaline Rush – World-class speakers embrace nervous energy. They know the physiological changes that happen when giving a speech. They key to decreasing your anxiety is to understand what you are calling nervousness is a natural reaction. Rather than viewing this adrenalin rush critically. Consider it a strength that you can use to improve your performance. When you guide this energy in a positive manner, it stops being nervousness and becomes an additional strength that will assist you to be at your best.
6. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics – World-class speakers engage their audience by explaining the story behind the numbers. You find statistics everywhere such as sales figures, gross revenues etc. The audience doesn’t care merely about numbers but the meaning behind them. What do the numbers mean? What are the implications of the numbers? Why do the numbers matter to the audience? Thus, clarification is key.
7. Speak to One – World-class speakers personalize their message. When you are speaking to a group, speak as if you are conversing with one person. Make each member of your audience believe that you are directing your message to them alone. For example, rather than asking the audience, “How many of you have been to Sydney? ask, “Have you been to Sydney? The minor change in wording personalize your question. This works because even though you are in a one-to-many conversation, each audience member is a one-to-one conversation. You are speaking to a group, but they are listening to one person.
Question: What will you start doing to improve your presentation skills?
Source: The Secrets of Highly Effective Speakers, Darren Fleming